WASHINGTON – A report on the origin of Covid-19 from a US government national laboratory concludes that the hypothesis that the virus originated from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan is plausible and deserves further investigation, according to people familiar with the classified document.
The study was conducted in May 2020 by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and was attracted by the State Department when it conducted a study of the origins of the pandemic during the last months of Trump’s rule.
He is attracting fresh interest in Congress now that President Biden has ordered US intelligence agencies to report to him within 90 days on how the virus originated. Mr Biden said US intelligence had focused on two scenarios ̵
Those familiar with the study said it was prepared by Lawrence Livermore’s “Z Division,” which is his intelligence arm. Lawrence Livermore has significant experience in biological matters. His assessment is based on genomic analysis of the SARS-COV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, they said.
Scientists are analyzing the genetic makeup of viruses to try to determine how they evolved and spread among the population. Proponents of both sides of the debate over the origins of Covid-19 cite a similar analysis to try to substantiate their argument.
A spokeswoman for Lawrence Livermore declined to comment on the report, which remains secret.
The assessment is believed to have been one of the first US government efforts to seriously investigate the hypothesis that the virus leaked from China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology, along with the competing hypothesis that the pandemic began with human contact with infected animals.
One person who read the document, dated 27 May 2020, said that he had made strong arguments for further investigation into the possibility of the virus leaking out of the laboratory.
The study also had a major impact on the State Department’s study of the origin of Covid-19. State Department officials received the survey in late October 2020 and requested more information, according to a schedule by the agency’s arms control and inspection bureau, which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The study is important because it comes from a respected national laboratory and differs from the prevailing view in the spring of 2020 that the virus was almost certainly transmitted to humans for the first time through an infected animal, said a former State Department official. .
The State Department’s findings, which were verified by US intelligence agencies, were made public in a January 15 fact sheet listing a number of indirect reasons why the Covid-19 outbreak may have occurred as a result of a laboratory accident. These include the statement that “the US government has reason to believe that several researchers in WIV fell ill in the fall of 2019” with symptoms corresponding to Covid-19 or seasonal flu.
The newspaper reported last month that the allegation was based, at least in part, on a U.S. intelligence report that three WIV researchers had become ill enough in November 2019 to seek hospital care.
White House spokesman Jen Psaki said the information about the three researchers came from a foreign entity and that further confirmation was needed. Biden officials also note that the State Department’s January 15 fact sheet acknowledged that the U.S. government did not know exactly where, when, or how the virus was first transmitted to humans.
The existence of Lawrence Livermore’s study was announced by the Sinclair Broadcast Group last month and noted in a recent Vanity Fair article.
In a May 26 statement calling for a new intelligence investigation, Mr Biden did not refer to Lawrence Livermore’s classified report, but said US national laboratories controlled by the Department of Energy would increase the work of spy agencies.
Following initial public reports of Lawrence Livermore’s study, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee – who are conducting their own investigations into the origins of Covid-19 – wrote the lab’s director, Dr. Kimberly Budil, requesting a classified briefing.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a recent interview with Axios, which was broadcast on HBO Max, that the United States must get to the bottom of what happened to prevent or mitigate the effects of future pandemics.
The Chinese government, he added, did not provide sufficient access or information to conduct international investigations into the origin of Covid-19.
“What the government has not done in the first days and has not done yet gives us the transparency we need,” Mr Blinken told Axios.
Write to Michael R. Gordon at email@example.com and Warren P. Strobel at Warren.Strobel@wsj.com
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